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Advantage Brings ICE Age to Merchants

Web Enabled Devices Set to Change Retail Countertops

Auckland – 13 July 2000 – Advantage Group Limited (NZSE: ADV) today launched the Hypercom ICE™ 5000, transforming the humble EFTPOS terminal into a fully interactive point-of-sale web appliance.

The graphical, Internet-enabled ICE terminal is a next generation countertop device. It targets replacing the 70,000 EFTPOS terminals currently in use in all types of small businesses and multilane merchants, 65 percent of which are currently supplied by Advantage.

The ICE 5000 combines a fully graphical touch screen with traditional POS functionality, allowing customers to touch in their PIN number or sign the screen. ICE supports credit and debit cards, cheques, smart cards, signature capture and a range of newer technologies. The all-in-one unit is ETSL certified for use on the nationwide EFTPOS network, after the successful June completion of a pilot programme at Auckland’s Fine Wine Delivery Company.

The fast transmission speed of 9600 bps (bits per second) speeds transactions and lowers costs. At six lines per second the ICE thermal printer with paper cutter is rapid and ensures that paper cannot jam.

“With ICE, merchants will finally be able to harness the power of the Internet,” says John Tait, General Manager, POS Equipment for Advantage. “They can process orders rapidly. They can communicate with suppliers and customers. They can earn hard cash from selling advertising space. They can tend to their online store, adjust inventory, change prices, or make special offers – all in addition to their normal debit and credit card processing, but only with ICE.

“Consumers will be able to view and print out special offers and coupons. They will be informed of special promotions, sales, and loyalty programs. And advertisers will have a new, focused, one-to-one marketing tool, but only with ICE.”

Delivers Retailers The Power Of The Internet
ICE brings the Internet to the retail counter top, increasing revenues and decreasing costs for the thousands of merchants that have been so far ignored in the Internet explosion.

“Through the Internet, POS payment terminals can evolve into multi-function information and e-commerce devices,” says Tait. “These terminals, which occupy a central and visible place on the retail counter, were restricted to a narrow set of functions in the past. They were primarily just used for credit, debit, cheque and loyalty transaction authorisation and capture. Today these terminals can do more, and in the process, bring new services, new revenues and new opportunities to merchants, payments processors and banks.”

Electronic Receipt Capture and Countertop Promotional Platform
Beyond its EFPOS functionality, the ICE 5000 is a platform for electronic receipt capture (ERC) advertising and customer loyalty programs. Signature capture software allows merchants to store and retrieve receipts, creating a complete paperless environment that improves customer service, increases merchant efficiency and reduces charge-backs.

The touch-screen can display promotions, advertising or other loyalty-orientated messages, supporting new and profitable applications that enable merchants to enhance relationships with customers in store.

These new Internet services can be ‘turned on’ in the same way customers turn on new Sky television channels. Just as in the Sky model, merchants subscribe to ePic and pay a monthly access fee to get the services they need.

“With ICE 5000, available from today, retailers and merchants can now manage a range of point of sale applications on a single countertop device,” says Tait. “ICE 5000 speeds transactions, eliminates manual receipt storage and opens up the door to new loyalty and promotional applications for merchants.

“Retailers today face the challenge of reducing their POS-driven costs and, at the same time, better targeting their promotional spend. ICE 5000 includes a number of research driven and customer-requested features that allow merchants to lower the costs of managing their countertop systems, increase sales and drive new revenue streams.

“ICE 5000 helps small, medium-sized and large merchants address these challenges by enabling them to accept a wide range of payment options, electronically capture receipts, and deploy a wide range of new one-to-one Internet-enabled applications all from a single countertop device.

“Electronic receipts will save businesses thousands of dollars in paper, storage and administration costs. They help settle disputed transactions and eliminate or significantly reduce charge-backs. Merchants can capture an image of the signed receipt using the touch screen, then print out a customer copy. The merchant copy is stored online in our secure database – and is accessible through ICE if a merchant needs to settle a dispute or help a customer re-order something.

“With its large programmable touch screen, ICE will enable merchants of all sizes to run countertop applications to build loyalty, better target their promotional spend and increase revenues from their countertop. Customised receipts and personalised advertising build the merchant brand, communicate promotions and encourage repeat business. Loyalty management, also supported by ICE, builds a valuable database for reward programs and event marketing that generates increased sales revenue.”

Ice’s Internet capability will also let merchants receive and acknowledge email orders and reservations and send email receipts to customers.

ePic Announcement
ICE is built on Hypecom’s ePic (ePos InfoCommerce) technology framework, the industry’s first comprehensive framework for Internet-based retail countertop commerce. Under ePic, ICE terminals are used as the merchant’s e-commerce access point, eliminating the need for costly, complex and difficult to support PCs. ePic is a quick and effective way for the majority of small merchants to start selling through the Internet. With ePic, every merchant, no matter how small, can become an e-business company with minimum investment and risk.

Furthermore, equipping the terminal with a browser and connecting it via the Internet to servers lets merchants escape the limitations of embedded software, its related memory issues and tedious software downloading. In this browser/server environment, new applications can be added quickly to all terminals virtually instantaneously, without regard to terminal memory limitations.

ePic preserves the way merchants do business today, binding established business methods and practices with the Internet. It opens up new opportunities in a broader untapped market, turning the Internet into a real medium for electronic commerce.

New Revenue Streams
ePic also opens up new revenue streams for merchants. Broadcast advertising can be delivered straight to the ICE screen before and during a transaction, and is printed on the receipt afterwards. Every merchant can segmented and targeted with advertising specific to that store only. Merchants charge advertisers each time an ad is displayed on their terminal and advertisers will pay premiums to access this new focused advertising medium.

Application rollout
Merchants deploying ICE terminals will be able to do limited branding immediately, with full advertising and email services ‘turned on’ before Christmas. Advantage aims to aggressively replace all existing EFTPOS technology with ICE. Receipt management will follow shortly afterwards. Future services include interactive loyalty and couponing, ticketing, stock ordering, even the ability for a merchant to manage their online store. More services will follow next year, as will the ICE 6000 with its large colour screen for more sophisticated solutions in large multilane environments.

Pricing and Availability
ICE (version 5000) is available in New Zealand from today at a rate comparable with other terminals.

Delivery will begin by 1st August.

About Advantage
Advantage Group Limited, an NZSE listed company, is a leading supplier of e-commerce and transaction processing solutions in New Zealand, Australia and throughout the southern hemisphere. The company has three business units: point-of-sale equipment, retail solutions and business-to-business e-commerce. Advantage provides hardware, software, transaction processing and funds transfer capabilities to enable complete e-commerce solutions.

ENDS


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